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Sooner

| October 19, 2005 12:00 AM

OK — so it's sooner.

While discussion is happening within the EPA information center and the Technical Assistance Group meetings, a local property owner does what everyone is concerned could happen when the EPA leaves town sometime in the future. Only it happens while the federal agency is still here.

A property owner decided not to wait for the EPA and sweeps the vermiculite in his attic. Unfortunately, his tenant in the building is a very public restaurant, which is now contaminated with vermiculite and asbestos dust and has to be cleaned up by the EPA in an emergency action. This will be costlier to the cleanup program than if the property owner waited for the EPA to come along and cleaned the building, perhaps next spring.

A couple of things should deter such action: First, it's against the law to remove toxic materials without adequate training and measures; second, it's dangerous to those involved and to everyone in or using that space.

This is an ongoing problem and won't be the last time such a thing happens. It just will. And more often than not it won't be intentional. Some one is going to cut into a wall or ceiling and get dusted with vermiculite contaminated by tremolite asbestos.

Locally, we need a process. A procedure. Checks and balances for avoiding these catastrophes. It is a safety issue for not only the property owners but neighboring properties and in some cases, such as above, the public.

The EPA already has a list of properties to be cleaned up. When building permits are issued, perhaps the person issuing the permit should check to see if the property to be remodeled is on the EPA's list to cleanup. If it is, then a few questions, a few precautions or cautions, should be shared or issued or mandated by the city or county. That's right, the county doesn't permit anything, it allows everything. Or is that the city?

It's just too bad the city council wasn't at last week's "meeting of meetings" so the issue can be discussed intelligently not just at the city level but the county, the Citizen Advisory Group and the TAG. And let's not forget Troy, which will be experiencing sampling, testing and cleanups perhaps sometime next year.

This is a big issue and we need some local leadership on it. The status quo of doing nothing cannot be allowed to continued, it cannot be tolerated. We have a community toxicologist hired through the TAG group. I'm sure he could provide us with whatever information we need to make a rational decision that works for everybody's safety.

Our only problem is getting the leadership to recognize the issue and make a decision.

Well, this is an election year and we can be asking those questions of the candidates, folks. — Roger Morris.